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2016 Draft Retrospect: New Orleans Saints WR Mike Thomas

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 27: New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) catches a pass for a touchdown during an NFL game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints on November 27, 2016 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire)
(John Korduner/Icon Sportswire)

Fresh off perhaps the best game of his young career, New Orleans’ Michael Thomas has fantasy owners and Saints fans alike buzzing with praise. Thomas has blossomed in his rookie season, quickly becoming a favorite target of Drew Brees in the red zone. To date, Thomas has been targeted seven times inside the opponent’s 10 yard line, resulting in five touchdowns.

Thomas is also on pace for a 1,000-yard receiving season, an impressive feat that continues the trend of productive rookie WRs. The 47th overall selection in the 2016 Draft, Thomas is giving many fans of WR-hungry teams seller’s remorse for passing him over in the late portions of Round 1 and the early portion of Round 2. In light of his nine-reception, 108-yard and two-touchdown performance this past weekend against the Rams, let’s turn back the clocks and see where Thomas stood in April:

NDT Scouting 2016 Draft Report

thomas

Click for full size report.

Thomas entered the Draft ranked as my fourth receiver, trailing Josh Doctson (injured), Sterling Shepard (44 rec, 476 rec. yards, 5 TD) and Laquon Treadwell (missing in action). Thomas has easily been the best of the bunch, which is less surprising to some of my colleagues than it may be to me. Draft colleague Josh Norris of Rotoworld had Thomas ranked 14th overall (also behind Treadwell and Doctson, as well as Corey Coleman). Yet digging deeper into the NDT Scouting evaluation does provide some context as to the discrepancy between his rookie performance and his rating on the board.

Second highest film score

My film evaluations are comprised of film and peripheral metrics, which blend to provide a full context of each player. Thomas’ film score of 7.99 was the second highest in the WR class, behind only Treadwell’s 8.17. Thomas’ evaluation score was bogged down by a failure to consistently produce at Ohio State and an only average physical profile in comparison to the past decade of fellow WRs to pass through the Combine. There’s one passage in particular that sums up Thomas’ individual case:

“…Thomas shows a physical/technical skill set that figures to be much more productive than he was in his time with the Buckeyes…Thomas is fairly advanced as a route runner and knows how to battle and win at the LOS.” I did go on to mention that Thomas has the potential to develop into an alpha receiver. He seems to be well on that trajectory with such an impressive rookie campaign under his belt so far.

Upside from here

Where does Thomas go from here? The Saints are in the middle of a division race, two games behind the Falcons. The Saints will need Thomas to continue to play big: they play the Bucs twice and Falcons once. With New Orleans’ fate largely in its own hands, Thomas figures to play a vital role. Of the Saints’ top three pass-catchers (Thomas, Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead) the rookie already has taken the lead in targets at 84. The three targets have four combined games with 10-plus targets this season, and Thomas owns three of them.

Should the Saints make a postseason push and win their division games down the stretch, you can bet Thomas is going to be a big reason why.

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